Well, we did it. On March 28, this past Saturday, at 8:30 pm local time, more than 4000 cities around the world and possibly nearly a billion people turned off or dimmed their lights for an hour. India and China participated for the first time.
What did I do?
Well, this past week was insanely busy with post-midterm marking papers and so on, but somehow between classes and between breaths I managed to spread the word at the college where I teach. Students in the college green team made a facebook page, the administration cooperated readily, and somehow we became official participants. But I had no idea to what extent the dorm students would cooperate and how effective it would be, until I happened to drive by the college on my way to an Earth Hour gathering at a local Unitarian Universalist church.
It was an amazing sight. Usually the college is a blaze of lights on a hill above the main road, but the hill was completely dark, except for the college sign and the streetlights. I was stunned into silence, then couldn’t help cheering and yelling. I almost felt like abandoning my party and going up to see what mischief the young people were up to, but managed to resist the temptation. I felt very proud of them, however. And amazed at how my minimalist networking had resulting in this near-complete voluntary blackout.
My earth hour party was fun, though. We were a small group, sitting in a large, empty room around four small candles (soy and beeswax only, so they are part of the carbon cycle and not a “new” carbon source as a petroleum-based candle might be). We had a guitar and an Irish flute, and we sang songs and chatted. At first it was a bit awkward but there is something magical about candle-light. So the conversation warmed up and the singing became more enthusiastic, and we had some poetry as well. The hour went by but we were all reluctant to turn on the lights so we sat around for another half hour or so. Then it was time to go.
When the lights were back on it was as though a spell had broken. I realized then that I hadn’t really relaxed for months before then, so that I had forgotten what it felt like. Sitting around a few candles was perhaps like sitting around a fire, telling stories, which humans have been doing for millenia. Somehow electric lights don’t have the same effect.
Not that I don’t appreciate technology — I love my computer, for instance. But it is nice to be reminded that there is life beyond electricity.
I am now waiting for reports from the Earth Hour folks. I have read that 36 million people in the US participated, and that the world figure was perhaps close to a billion. If this builds momentum it will be really exciting.
I wish there was more about all this in the SF blogosphere. Perhaps I simply haven’t been looking at the right blogs, but SF folks seem to be very quiet about this. And here we are, trying to build a mass social movement to stop climate change, to save the world — what could be more SFnal than that?